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Summer of the '80s

Big hair, big guitar licks... it will feel like grunge never happened

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When it comes to talk of Canada's most successful male musician, you can forget about Buble and Bieber. Yes, they're both enjoying tremendous accolades and album sales (30 million and eight million, respectively), but the two have nothing on their Cancon forefather, Bryan Adams. Not only has Adams sold more than 65 million records, nabbed 18 Junos and a Grammy, toured the world and reached No. 1 on the charts in more than 40 countries, but his name is practically synonymous with Canadian pop-rock.

That said, it's been two decades since Canadians have been able to hear the 18 'til I Die singer the way they remember him -- playing large arenas with a full band, like he did in support of his 1991 multi-platinum-selling album, Waking Up the Neighbours. In recent years, Adams has instead preferred to play stripped down, acoustic versions of his hits as part of his Bare Bones tour. But Adams has not only returned to his homeland to play a blockbuster cross-country tour, he is also doing it with a full band.

And while the 52-year-old is reunited with his old bandmates, including longtime guitarist Keith Scott and drummer Mickey Curry, and singing the well-worn lyrics to Summer of '69, for the audience it's going to feel more like the summer of '84, the year that song was first released on Reckless, Adams' bestselling album to date. That record not only ensured Adams a prime spot on classic rock radio for eternity, but included a wealth of tracks that fans immediately associated with the Kingston, Ont., native, including Run to You, Somebody Like You and Heaven. Needless to say, the album features heavily in Adams' new set list.

And while Adams has now swapped his old-school Springsteen-of-the-North look (white T-shirt, tight jeans) for a more man-in-black approach, there's no question this new tour is an all-out, unapologetic nostalgia-drenched effort -- not that there's anything wrong with that. After all, Adams is hardly the first artist to cash in on giving lifelong fans exactly what they want. Last year, for instance, saw acts ranging from Soundgarden to House of Pain either reunite to hit the road or, in the case of the Pixies, Lauryn Hill and Weezer (who called it their Memories tour), play seminal albums in their entirety. But if the summer of 2011 was geared at music fans who came of age in the '90s, the summer of 2012 will hit a note with those who still long for the '80s.

Hard-rockers Van Halen got the early, ahem, jump, on the wave of Regan-era nostalgia, kicking off its reunion tour earlier this year in support of a new album, A Different Kind of Truth (the band's first in 14 years), with an almost original lineup consisting of brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen, Eddie's son Wolfgang and founding frontman David Lee Roth. It's the first time the Van Halens and Roth have recorded a full-length studio album since 1984 -- both the album name and year it came out.

But despite the new album, Van Halen's tour (which hits Western Canada in May) is much of the same -- high-kicking '80s classics, and crowds singing along to Runnin' with the Devil and Hot for Teacher as if Trans Ams were still the car of choice and grunge never knocked hair metal off the charts.

"Selective amnesia is only a heartbeat away," Roth aptly told the crowd at the group's Feb. 28 Madison Square Gardens concert.

One band that could benefit from some of that selective amnesia before it kicks off a massive reunion/nostalgia tour of its own is Aerosmith, whose singer Steven Tyler is noted nowadays not for his signature voice but for his outbursts on American Idol, or bursting out of his camouflage Speedos.

Since Aerosmith released Honkin' on Bobo in 2004, an album of covers with only one original song, tensions have been high in the band for a number of reasons, ranging from Tyler's health problems to the frontman's TV gig, which guitarist Joe Perry described as "one step above Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." Yet Tyler and Perry have apparently worked things out, and on March 26 the band announced both its Global Warming tour, which starts in June and has three Canadian stops, and the release of a new album in May, the first of entirely new material since 2001's Just Push Play. The album will mark the end of the band's longest hiatus from recording new material, and is all too reminiscent of the band's 1979 split, in which Perry left, only to rejoin for the Back in the Saddle tour five years later, in 1984.

"The old Aerosmith is back with a new vengeance and we will kick your arse and make out with your mothers," Tyler said in a statement, adding the band was working with its longtime producer Jack Douglas.

Fans can only hope Tyler stays true to his word. After all, if there's one thing a summer of nostalgia-tinged concerts is good for -- besides raking in truckloads of cash for now-aged rockers -- it's the chance to let audiences forget their worries and immerse themselves in a long-ago time and place, where everything and anything seemed possible. As Adams will no doubt sing when he takes the stage this week, "Those were the best days of my life."

 

-- Postmedia News

 

CONCERT DATES

 

Bryan Adams finishes his cross-Canada tour June 22 in Winnipeg. Van Halen plays Winnipeg May 13. Aerosmith is staying in the east, playing Toronto June 27, Laval, Que., July 10 and Quebec City July 12.

 

For more information, visit bryanadamstour.com, van-halen.com/ tour and aeroforceone.com.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 15, 2012 A14

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